Monday, June 30

God Bless the USA (Lee Greenwood)

Just a few days post-911, I was wandering around Boston alone, looking for peace, when I stumbled upon an impromptu performance by Lee Greenwood near the State House.  Two songs in, he began to play 'God Bless the USA,' and an amazing thing happened.  All of these strangers began to sing together.  For four minutes, we were not passers-by on the city streets, bitter and torn from the recent tragedy - everyone joined as one.  It was pretty amazing...
It's a few days pre-Independence Day, but here are some ideas to celebrate America's birthday with your family this 4th of July.  (Trivia : The Declaration of Independence was completed and signed on July 2nd, but they didn't get around to a public reading until July 4th.**)
Liberty's Kids is a series, by PBS, about what our founding fathers and our people went through to become the United States of America.  It's a children's show, but fun for parents, too.  If you're looking for an easy, enjoyable way to teach about colonial life & the Revolution, I recommend it.

Fourth of July unit study :

Saturday, June 28

New York New York (On the Town)

New York, New York, a wonderful town;  The Bronx is up, but the Battery's down.
The people ride in a hole in the groun';  New York, New York, it's a wonderful town!
-On the Town (1944)
We drove to New Rochelle, NY and (after driving around in a circle for 45 minutes) took the Metro into New York City for an unplanned day of fun and adventure!  (Note the word "unplanned," as it will lead to a very important lesson...)  We had exactly half a day to see as much of NYC as possible!

The Metro pulled into Grand Central Station, and suddenly the boys understood what I mean when I occasionally answer the phone "Grand Central."  The ceiling, painted with constellations, is very beautiful, and the architecture so lavish and meticulously detailed, that I dare you NOT to take pictures.  We researched the history of Grand Central on the train ride in.
Our first stop in the city was probably not the most traditional.  Being NASA Passport members, we wanted to make sure to hit the Sea, Air, and Space Museum, so we snagged a taxi driven by the one of the least friendly people I've ever met.  I'm not sure he spoke English, as we had to give him instructions three or four different ways.  And the music was some sort of eastern-European vibe...possibly Ukranian?  But we got there...alive.
At the museum, we found Skipper , from the movie Planes , as well as many other aircraft from our various military branches.  My son's favorites were the Blue Angels and the Coast Guard helicopter.  He's convinced that his aunt and uncle (who are Coasties) fly these helicopters to rescue people, despite our dissuasion. 
Looking for cooler temperatures, we left the flight deck of the USS Intrepid and went inside the exhibit gallery to see the space shuttle Enterprise.  We had a chance to speak with some former astronauts and compare all of the space shuttles we had visited in the past year.  The last section of the museum was the Growler submarine, but there was a promotion happening and we were unable to get into the tour.
We decided to go see that great American landmark, the Statue of Liberty!  Unfortunately, again, we were unable to get tickets to see her.  The next available tickets were for late September!!  Luckily, a local overheard our quandary and made an alternative, and free, suggestion.  So we hopped aboard the Staten Island Ferry and got to at least ride by and wave hello to Lady Liberty.
On the return ride, we found a little corner of the boat that wasn't cramped with people who have a very different understanding of "personal space."  This was the most relaxing, enjoyable part of our trip to the city.  For half an hour, we drank in the sights and sounds of the city, without feeling walked upon and overwhelmed.
We might joke that us on our first trip to New York City was a bit like the Clampetts going to town, but it was a little much trying to wing it for a day trip to the city.  We weren't able to get into the Empire State Building tour, or many of the other places we wanted to see, mostly because we didn't plan ahead.  Spontaneous trips have their place and time, but this wasn't it.
This photo, taken on the subway, pretty much sums up how we were all feeling as we left the big city.  Hot, tired, and generally irritated - it's what we encountered all day; it must be contagious. 
Our lesson learned - national landmarks require considerable planning ahead.  We plan to visit the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia next week; hopefully, we'll be able to get in!

New York City unit :
Videos of some of the places we were unable to get into....let's take the virtual tour together!
USS Intrepid - Growler Submarine

Ellis Island

Empire State Building

A few years back, my baby sister won a contest and had the privilege of being married at the top of the Empire State Building.  It was on such short notice, that none of our family was able to attend, but it still makes a good story!  We all had a great time at their 'second wedding' a few months later.

Monday, June 23

Dirty Water (Standells)'s time to switch locations!  We have two days to get from Vermont to Pennsylvania, and we're going to hit the major eastern seaports along the way : Boston & New York City.  Today, we buckled an extra 'kid' in the backseat for the trip...
With only one day to visit Boston, we decided to see as many sights as possible via the Trolley Tour.  It's a hop on-hop off tour, but I recommend taking the whole thing in one sitting, if you're up to it.  With a full trolley, the driver had to turn people away at every stop.  Although there are a few different tours in the city, this group's drivers double-time as comedians, making it educational and entertaining! 

We drove by, and got the story behind, several historic landmarks, including : the Cheers bar, State House, a few older churches, the Old South Meeting House, Bunker / Breeds Hill, and the Granury Burying Ground (current home of Paul Revere, John Hancock, Sam Adams, and others).
The tour over, our bellies grumbled for lunch.  We were close to the North End, home of the best Italian food this side of the Atlantic.  At Bella Vista, we got oversized lunch portions for deli lunch prices, and fantastic service.  The boys even had a chance to speak with the chef and get the secret to his sauce!
Holy Cannoli!  You can't finish an Italian meal without tiramisu or cannoli, so we crossed the street to Modern Pastry.  While most tourists are directed to Mike's (and admittedly, they are good), Modern Pastry had shorter lines and more selection with the same price and quality.  Since we only get cannoli in the North End, we filled a box...and as much as I'd like to tell you that we saved some for later, the truth is that we enjoyed them all!
After a meal like that, we needed to stretch our legs, so we headed across town, through the Common, and over to the museums.  On the way, we stopped by Faneuil Hall to do a little shopping.
Next stop, the Boston Tea Party Museum.  Continuing on the Revolutionary War theme, we re-enacted the Boston Tea Party after learning about the taxes and rumblings that led up to it.  I got to be Sarah Fulton - the party's costume designer!  The boys had a chance to dump tea into the harbor and hang out with Sam Adams
After a hard afternoon of chucking tea into the harbor, we headed to Abigail's Tea Room for a tea-tasting.  For five bucks, you get a souvenir mug and all the tea you can drink.
Back to the Public Gardens, we visited the duck pond and found the family of ducks from Robert McCloskey's "Make Way for Ducklings."
Our fellow traveler is fascinated by parochial architecture, so we visited several churches during our afternoon stroll.  A few offered information on their historical significance.  The boys pretended to be Sons of Liberty, giving speeches on each doorstep.
As much as we wanted to stay, the sun was going down, and we still had a three-hour drive to our stop in Connecticut.  So we grabbed lobster rolls to go, headed back to the garage (thank heavens for taking a photo of the garage name & parking unit!), and headed west.  Tomorrow, we venture into the Big Apple!  It will be the first visit for all four of us.  Until then...g'night!
Boston unit : 

Check out all of our We Were There unit studies!